Oh how I love Pinot Noir!  With descriptors that range from black and/or red cherry, raspberry, strawberry and currant to mushroom, earth, forest, smoke, incense and spice, Pinot Noir shines when paired with food.  At the end of January, the 3rd Annual Southern California Pinot Days took place at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica.  With close to 100 producers, there were Pinots from Central Coast, Northern California, Oregon and Burgundy to taste.  With only a couple hours to taste, here are just a few of my favorites:

From sommelier to winery owner, George Pitsironis shared his Inception Wines, handcrafted wines made from fruit sourced from the best vineyards in the Santa Barbara region. The standout was the soon to be released spicy, red berried 2009 La Encantada Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills.

Inman Family Wines from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma is owned by Kathleen and Simon Inman. Starting with their newest release, the 2009 Brut Rose Nature “Endless Crush” is a sparkling rose of Pinot Noir made with Estate fruit…..what’s not to love about sparking rose?!?!  The garnet colored 2008 Olivet Grange Vineyard Pinot Noir, with notes of cherry, cranberry, rose petal and clove, is elegant and finessed compared to the dark berry, earthy and vibrantly acidic 2008 Thorn Ridge Ranch Pinot Noir.

Owner and winemaker Dan Glover makes only 200 cases of the L’Objet Noir 2009 Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, an unfiltered, unfined, naturally fermented wine.

Vineyard Manager and Winemaker Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe shared his delicious Pinot Noirs, including the 2009 which was bright and elegant and the 2008 which was, as Wes explained, “comfortable in it’s own skin and not trying too hard.”

Gary Brookman, winemaker for Miner Family Wines, poured the 2009 Gary’s Vineyard from Santa Lucia Highlands, a pinot with flavors of dark fruit and nutmeg-clove spice and the 2009 Carneros Pinot, a brighter, fruit-foward wine, showing how place really influences the flavors of Pinot Noir.